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Ubuntu 16.04 kisses the cloud, disses the desktop

Tom Henderson | Sept. 7, 2016
Latest version of popular OS offers long-term support, beefed up features for OpenStack deployments.

Ceph is a well-known member of various OpenStack cloud deployments, and Canonical’s deployment of OpenStack in turn, becomes a part of their services structure, somewhat rubbing competitively against initiatives by Red Hat.

Canonical also offers Autopilot on its website, an OpenStack control mechanism with a free trial for up to 10 servers and $750 per server per year after that. Conceptually, this allows an analyst or developer to build the control mechanisms on VMware vSphere, using MaaS (Ubuntu’s Metal-as-a-Service server/instance distribution system) with OpenStack software devices/services, such as networking, storage, KVM compute in various configurations.

This system is very simple to test for those familiar with VMware and or Linux Containers (LXC) and gives a flavor for OpenStack control to novices. It was trivial for us to deploy.

Canonical will also build and deploy an OpenStack network via their BootStack service for just $15 per server per month including support.

In a bare metal install, we were able to add Windows Server 2012 R2 Data Center Edition as an OpenStack-managed host, although recipes for this sort of hypervising aren’t easy to find. The proof of concept worked.

What this speaks to is the sheer automation speed of compute, storage, and network build-out — and potentially low cost — of OpenStack managed resources. At this writing, Ubuntu leads in both AWS instances, and also those deployed with OpenStack overall as client instances.

Desktop takes a back seat

Ubuntu’s Unity desktop is the same old stuff, although it’s grown to a 1.49GB download. We found it inconvenient that the long list of download sources are not optimized for speed; we found Tor sources to be the fastest, and the Tor sources checksummed correctly.

The Mir display server underpinnings designed to become a unified replacement for Unity’s XWindows substrate is, well, promised again for 16.10, due perhaps later this year. This apple of a user interface in Canonical’s eye has taken longer to bring to all devices than was originally planned. Although there are many under-the-hood changes, we find none particularly notable.

Things that make us growl: The Desktop is missing Mir. It’s also missing initial hard password enforcement. You can still boot to a desktop that’s free and open with no password. There is no install-time SAML authentication or secondary or OAuth provider to immediately proxy users safely to an SSO provider, although there is an http proxy available at installation.

Tablet versions of Ubuntu are rarer to find. BQ, an integrator/OEM of Ubuntu on tablets sells them mainly in the EU market. We were unable to put our hands on one for purposes of this review. The same problem exists for Ubuntu Phone.


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